Readers of Aftonbladet were surprised on Friday when they opened their newspapers to find an advertisement for the Sweden Democratic political party gracing the “independently Social Democrat” tabloid, which is partially owned by the LO trade union federation.
Most of Sweden’s major media outlets have shied away from offering the Sweden Democrats any ad space in the run up to the European Parliament elections.
The Sweden Democrats, which have an election platform slogan of “Give us back Sweden!”, are a far-right nationalist political party espousing anti-immigration views.
Despite efforts to distance himself from charges of racism, party leader Jimmie Åkesson recently found himself in hot water for participating in a racist sing-along with fellow party members during a party conference in January on board a ferry to Tallinn in Estonia.
In addition to be being refused ad space, the party is also often denied from participating in political debates with other mainstream political parties.
As a result, the Sweden Democrats often complain that they are treated unfairly by the Swedish political establishment – an argument which Aftonbladet editor-in-chief Kalle Jungkvist said he hoped to counter by publishing ads for the party in his paper.
“I see the Sweden Democrats as a right-wing populist party with strong xenophobic overtones,” said Jungkvist in an opinion piece in Aftonbladet explaining his decision.
“I don’t want to strengthen the Sweden Democrats’ view of themselves as martyrs. I want to have an open debate about their politics.”
Jungkvist explained that after much internal debate, he ultimately decided that Aftonbladet would publish the advertisements, something which didn’t sit well with some of its readers.
According to Jungkvist, Aftonbladet reader Anna Kettner contacted him to say that she ultimately agreed with his reasons for publishing the ads, but encouraged him to “give the money you receive from the ads to an organization which actively works against xenophobia”.
Finding the idea an “excellent proposal”, the Aftonbladet editor said on Friday he will send the 39,000 kronor ($5,000) his paper received for publishing the advertisements to Expo, a foundation and newspaper devoted to “studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society.”